Mario Andretti wore silver sneakers and recalled a near crash as jumpsuited models passed vegetable timbales.
It happened in a 2003 test run and sent his car into the air for a few flips.
“Fortunately I landed on four beautiful Firestone tires,” said Andretti, 71, who won the 1969 Indianapolis 500 and will drive the pace car for this year’s race on May 29.
“I may not pull over -- we’ll see how long the fuel lasts,” he said at a party last night at the Classic Car Club. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500.
Driver Ryan Briscoe, wearing Calvin Klein, a brand owned by Indy 500 sponsor Izod, said he’ll be doing long workouts to prepare for the race.
“It’s about endurance,” he said before departing with his wife for a reservation at the Brazilian steakhouse Churrascaria Plataforma. His meal on race day will be pasta and chicken three hours before the race.
Helio Castroneves, who has won the Indianapolis 500 three times as well as Season 5 of television’s “Dancing With the Stars,” said that his “Brazilian talents” on the dance floor do not help him race. “When you’re in the car, the hips don’t move,” he said.
ESPN broadcaster Vince Welch noted that 725 men and 7 women have raced in the Indianapolis 500.
“We can do the same job as the men,” said the Swiss-born Simona de Silvestro, the race’s 2010 Rookie of the Year.
‘Love for Japan’
A few blocks away, at EN Japanese Brasserie, Wynton Marsalis blew his horn, Hilary Swank praised the sushi rolls and waiters offered oysters, homemade tofu and beef tongue. Martha Stewart wore knee-high leather riding boots.
The gathering, dubbed “Love for Japan,” was a fundraiser for the Japan Society’s Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, put together by the restaurant’s owner, Reika Yo.
“Japan is one of my favorite places on earth,” said R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. “It’s unbearably catastrophic what happened.”
Stewart said she felt compelled to do her part because on her visits to Japan, the Japanese people have treated her “with such hospitality and with such good will and good nature.”
Artist Terence Koh, who wore a furry white coat, donated a black-ink drawing to a silent auction. Also on the block were a photograph by Laurie Simmons, a vinyl sculpture in the shape of a shrimp by designer Anne Koch and a pair of silver shoes donated by Madonna.
“I am so sad about my country,” Yo said in her airy restaurant decorated with cherry blossoms. “Tonight I have happy tears because I feel the love and the support and it’s a very, very beautiful thing.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)